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Marques Toliver & Lianne La Havas in Notion Magazine 60

Notion 60 Cover Story: Lianne La Havas & Marques Toliver

For the cover of Notion Magazine issue 60, we bring together two brilliant artists: the seductive songstress and Mercury-nominee Lianne La Havas stars with the indescribably brilliant popstar violinist Marques Toliver. In an exclusive photoshoot and interview, the two chart the course of a creative friendship. Get your copy here.

There’s a temptation with artists and musicians to pedastalise them, plinth them up, put them out of reach above us, higher beings adept at something – at communicating truths and feelings we’d never articulated or known or realised could be shared. They are freaks, gifted with this odd ability to communicate better than the rest of us. It’s not a particularly constructive or healthy habit, but we do it anyway.

Is it actually so surprising we idolise them? They’re basically angels: a word which has always denoted ‘messengers’, God’s communicators, either supernatural beings or people of power on the earth. We’ve not changed so much over the years: godless as we may now be, but we still imbue those who can speak to us a divine power and elevate them above us.

Inevitably, the idea of a friendship between these modern angels is seen as remarkable – if they can communicate so effortlessly to us things we could never get out of ourselves, how do they speak to each other? You imagine an orgy of unspoken understanding and deep lust and unbelievable sex, experience beyond us. It’s probably not true, but it’s fascinating nonetheless.

Of course, they’re just people – with a “craft”, as Marques Toliver likes to describe what he does. And if they’re not actually angels, they are cyphers – figures we can understand ourselves through. What is creativity; and what is friendship? Lianne La Havas and Marques Toliver don’t give us final answers on these subjects, but it’s wonderful to look briefly into their friendship and see what we can learn of our own.

Lianne you’ll know from her plugged in soul-folk, best realised on her debut, ‘Is Your Love Big Enough?’, by far the best of the four strummer records nominated for the Mercury this year. Marques you might well know as well – a perennial alt.musician’s favourite, beloved even of Adele, a former busker turned singer-songwriter whose lead instrument is the violin, and who finally releases his debut album at the start of next year to a chorus of ‘FINALLY!’ from those of us who’ve long been besotted with his unique soulful pop songs. They share that strange power of speaking to us deeply, holding our fascination when baring themselves. They met, suitably enough, when playing together – obviously holding the power over each other as well as us.

Bringing them together for a cover was a pleasure. To use a hoary old trope, in the flesh they happily embody their music: Lianne arrives first, a slight presence but strong, elegant and controlled and amicable. Marques arrives after – he’s mercurial, lively, demanding attention. When they pose before the camera together, their smiles are big, dazzling. Marques jokes, “it’s like you’re my girlfriend.” We’d hoped to talk with them together, but unfortunately the illness that has led to Lianne postponing her tour meant we never had the chance. Instead, we spoke with them separately about their friendship and hoped that these two angels could shed some light on friendship through the lens of their own.



NOTION: When I’ve spoken to Marques in the past, he’s spoken of how his violin is almost a part of him and goes everywhere with him – like a phone, something that can avoid social awkwardness & boredom – but also something that can enliven any situation and bring people together. Is that true of you and your guitar, Lianne? I think of the line “found myself in a second hand guitar…”

LIANNE LA HAVAS: This is definitely the case with my guitar. The line you mention is exactly how I felt when I bought my guitar. Many songs have since been written and recorded on it and I love the way it sounds and feels to play. I feel like it’s my sound and the fact that no two instruments are ever the same means that I think I’ve found the guitar meant for me.

N: How did the two of you meet?

LLH: I met Marques when I was supporting him at a live music night called ‘Blue Flowers.’ This was in November 2010 and we’ve been friends ever since.

MARQUES TOLIVER: [laughs] This is so fun! I just talk about my life! So Lianne and I first met doing a gig at Blue Flowers over in west London. And then from that, I can’t remember the other act, basically at the gig I met Lianne and we kept in touch and I really liked her sound and she liked my sound and we’d hung around and listened to each other’s shows… And then I guess we should fast forward to the present day – she’s on tour supporting her debut album and I was able to be her support act for, I think two and a half weeks – and we were travelling on the tour bus and it was a big first for all of us and interacting with the band, and now the opportunity to do the cover shoot with you guys is really fulfilling and rewarding, in a way, to see the progress we’ve made.

N: You made a very cute pair.

MT: I so wanna see the photos! I’m sure this is the first of many opportunities that will come. Lianne and I, just between ourselves, have talked about collaborating again and hitting the road together. I mean, there’s just so much opportunity to play music together in different ways. I’m really looking forward to them.

N: So was it a musical friendship first and foremost? Was there a personal thing that started it off? Was there something you recognised in each other musically, or was it something you saw as people?

MT: It was both. I think it’s all of that – that’s what it has to be. Both of those, not just one or the other.

N: Is there something you recognise of yourself in Lianne? I think of the other times we’ve talked, and what you’ve said about your violin being a part of yourself – and that links to Lianne’s line about her guitar. Is that related do you think?

MT: Ummm… I wouldn’t say that. I would say it’s more the communication and the creativity, the unwritten language that exists between her and me- that is recogised. A lot of non-verbals. It’s the non-verbals I would say is the thing that is the connecting factor.
N: Is that a purely musical thing or is that a thing that happens just between two friends?

I think that’s just the whole nature of being an organism that has a brain – the communication of being social creatures. When it comes with parts of isolation, which comes with the career we’ve chosen. We have to kind of, die, in a way, and be reborn, because the death comes with the critics and non-believers and the whole media side of it which can consume an artist. That’s something which has got to give, in a way, and die, being, but in a way it’s rewarding because we’re reborn being on stage and recording and interacting with other musicians. It’s a vicious cycle.

N: Which song by the other that you think, ‘Damn, I wish I’d written that!’?

MT: ‘Elusive’ – it’s one on the new album. It’s incredible. I have all her songs recorded on my phone live from touring with her.

LLH: ‘Step Back and Remember’ – I’ve seen him perform it and reduce himself and his audience to tears. I love this song and it’s one that he plays on his Auto Harp. I’d never seen one before I saw him play one and it was a lovely moment.

N: What is it you respond to in Marques, creatively and personally?

LLH: The fact that with Marques, what you see is what you get. He’s larger than life and wears his talent on his sleeve. Never afraid to sing to people or to share music wherever he goes. This is one of the many reasons I love him.

N: What do you think you share as musicians in terms of approach and reference points?

LLH: We have a lot of similar influences. We have often stayed up late watching videos of Alicia Keys and Beyonce and Whitney Houston. I think we both have a desire to express our real life situations through song.

N: When you play live together, what is it in each other you respond to?

LLH: I think that our mutual respect for each other’s music and singing styles makes it so enjoyable to play together and I just love Marques’ energy on stage

N: What is it about Lianne’s music that you really respect? What chimes with you?

MT: It’s sincere. Yeah, definitely. It’s sincere. That’s enough for me. And she’s a hell of a singer. And she’s still so young! I feel like it’s kind of musical awakening for all of us – not just Lianne and I but Jessie Ware and Michael Kiwanuka and Ghostpoet and everyone in America like Solange and Dev Hynes and Frank Ocean and all those guys, just feels like something’s happening with the whole musical consciousness.

N: How would you describe it?

MT: Serendipitous. A serendipitous occasion. Because, we all don’t know each other, of course, but I’m sure there’ll come a point in time when we’ll all know of each other because we’ll all be at the same musical gathering.

N: I think it’s about story-telling, that’s something both you and Lianne do. There are elements of the wandering minstrel, playing music and telling stories around a campfire.

MT: Yes, it’s communication. It’s about being social creatures, at the end of the day.

LIANNE LA HAVAS’ debut album ‘IS YOUR LOVE BIG ENOUGH? is OUT NOW on Warner Music. She is touring in November.
MARQUES TOLIVER’S debut album will be released early next year on Bella Union.



Words Michael C Lewin
Photography James Moriarty
Art Direction Hidden Agency
Styling Aaron Francis Walker
Fashion assistants Farah Lakoues, Danielle Weber and Veronica Kadi
Makeup by Liz Martins @ DWM using Chanel A/W 2012 & Liz Martins Lash Enhance Lashes
Hair by Eugene Davis
With very special thanks to The Outnet 


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